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Current Archaeology editorial
Who champions the amateur?

CA?s Editor in Chief defines the difference between community and amateur archaeology, and cautions not to leave our past to the politicians.

Read it and consider some constructive critique - not rant.. or abuse. Just some reasons why you disagree / agree

remember - quote button and paste in the text you quote.

Wow - where to start!

I would argue with most of the points raised in this article!

Firstly I would strongly dispute that
Quote:Professional and academic archaeology are both doing well" and " The big governmental or semi-governmental bodies such as English Heritage and the National Trust are also flourishing".

Funding for archaeology departments is under threat with the number of funded places for postgraduate study slashed and as a professional archaeologist in my experience the amount of work has seen a steady decline and it is heartbreaking to see whole university year groups of bright and enthusiastic archaeology graduates unable to find work and dropping out of the profession before even finding thier first job. And English Heritage are facing massive cuts in staffing with redundancies looming for many who have years of experience and knowledge that will be drained from the system

It seems to me that this article has as much to do with class as anything else - why should archaeology be for the masses and for deprived areas or god forbid children!!! Let those who can pay do the work. This attitude is appalling - archaeology has a place for all and archaeologists working with community groups often give time and experience for free, and I firmly believe that all excavation should be carried out under the supervision of proffessional archaeologists. Simply watching time team or following the basic instructions in a basic field manual is no substitute for experience. Amaturs do have a role but it is most definately not in the commercial sector.

This is perhaps best exemplified by the statement that
Quote:Firstly, in churches, the Diocesan Advisory Committees should be expected to work in closest collaboration with local archaeological societies. If minor work needs to be carried out, the local society should be given the first option. When professional archaeologists are called in, they tend immediately to put barricades round the site so no-one can see what is happening, and that is not the point of archaeology at all. Far better to have the work done by the local societies who are, after all, part of the community – and who are far, far cheaper than professional archaeologists.
Why would the local society be given first option? What expertise do they have that makes them better placed to conduct the work! And as was previously stated the societies are not happy about having to publish detailed work

And as for the barricades - does that not have far more to do with regulations about excavation of human remains. Most units i have worked for are more than happy to answer any questions from the public and many run open days or site talks.

And of course people who work for free will be cheaper but it does not represent a sustainable model for excavation

right rant over Sad!Sad!Sad!Sad!
You seem to have made the CA website so popular I can't access it! {been trying for a while, keeps timing-out - can usually get on there no probs) :0

It just me or are others having same problem - could be why this is the first post replying to this thread?
...ah, Trowelfodder's post that beat mine has answered that then, it's just me missing out on all the fun then Sad
I've a huge amount of respect for Andrew Selkirk and all he's done for archaeology over the years, but when reading Current Archaeology I do find the frequent professional-bashing a little wearing. I can be quite happily reading through an issue, enjoying the articles and features, then turn over the page to be faced with a diatribe about how I'm no good at my job because I undertake archaeology for money, rather than for interest or for love of the subject. In common with most evil professional archaeologists, personal interest and love of the subject is one of the major reasons why I do the job. I'd argue that anyone who's prepared to put up with the poor pay and conditions face by most professional archaeologists has already demonstrated a fairly high level of commitment to the job - indeed, it could be said that when faced with these, the easy option would be to take better-paid employment in an office and do archaeology as a hobby.

I'd also suggest that setting up such a clear 'amateur - good, professional -bad' division has had a lot to do with fostering suspicion between the two sectors. I suppose it's a case of chicken and egg, but if local societies are frequently told by the best-selling archaeology magazine that all professionals view them with distain and want to stop them undertaking fieldwork, they're likely to respond to any professional in a suspicious manner. As I said on the IFA thread, I try to make contact with local societies when undertaking an EIA, both to gauge their opinion on the effect on recorded sites, and to try to find out whether they've identified any additional material during their research. However, in the majority of cases, I don't receive any response, and when I do get a reply, it's often along the lines of 'this is our patch, we don't want anyone else working here'. Indeed, I've even had one local society tell me that, yes, they are aware of additional sites in their area, but no, they're not prepared to tell me where or what they are - risking the possibility that said sites would be destroyed by the development rather than sharing the information. On that basis, I wouldn't necessarily agree with Mr Selkirk's belief that the best way of making the wider community aware of archaeology is for local societies to undertake developer-led work - don't get me wrong, I think that this is certainly something that the professional sector could do better, but I've found that local societies can be as secretive and closed-mouthed as any confidentiality-clause-constrained contractor when it comes to 'their' archaeology.

I'm also slightly uncomfortable with statements like
Quote:An essential component is ‘access’, which means that archaeology must cater for the socially deprived and to school children
Quote:The CBA has concentratedon selling archaeology to the general public (‘access’Wink rather than in finding the right role for local societies, or the right balance between amateur and professional.
I'm sure it wasn't his intention, but these statements sound a little like Mr Selkirk is saying that only the 'right sort' of people (local society members) are entitled to have an interest in, or get involved with archaeology, and that the socially-disadvantaged, school children and the general public have no role - an argument that would appear to run directly counter to the main thrust of the article, which is very much in favour of wider access. I’ve been involved in several projects that tried to get people involved in archaeology from outside the ‘white, middle aged, middle class’ demographic that makes up the core constituency of most local societies (not that there’s anything wrong with being white, middle class and middle aged – I’d probably fall into it myself)

I'd also take issue with the statement that local societies should be given first chance at certain jobs because they're cheaper than professional archaeologists. Surely the main concern should be that the work is done well, not that it's done cheaply? I know that many local societies undertake excellent fieldwork, but there are also some who don't have an active field side - how do you prevent such a society undertaking work that trashes a site?

I hope that this post isn't viewed as an attack on Andrew Selkirk, or on local societies generally - as I said at the start, he's played a very significant role in promoting archaeology to the wider public, and Current Archaeology is a fine publication, but I do have concerns that setting up such a climate of opposition between amateurs and professionals is unlikely to do either group much good.

Just as a matter of interest, I’d also note that the article is from October 2010 rather than October this year.
You know Marcus. He once got lost in his own museum
I'd be happy to criticise Andrew Selkirk....

He once described a session I chaired at an IfA conference something along the lines of a charade run by a bunch of unrepresentative Marxist apologists. The session was about mounting a defence of the established county and city archaeology units about to be decimated after the introduction of 'commercial' archaeology!!

I don't really care whether he publishes the best selling or worst selling archaeology magazine, but what I would say is that his presence over the past 30 years has been a hindrance to the professionalisation of UK archaeology. He would probably chalk that up as a victory for his view that amateurism is a valid manner in which to run an increasingly sophisticated profession. If you are currently working, the next time you receive your wage packet/salary slip be heartened to know that for every penny you are earning below the national average wage, a Selkirk or one of his cronies is raising a glass of claret and spitting it straight into your eye!!

As to his view that political correctness is running rife bear in mind that (as someone said on the radio last night) to most right thinking people, 'political correctness' per se is nothing more than politeness and decent considerate behaviour. As to his criticism of the Child Protection Register - we live in a world where such things are necessary. As to his view that the CBA is bad because it recieves grant funding, I guess he will be really happy that funding has now been cut and as a result several posts have been lost and the work of the CBA hampered. How can anyone have such a jaundiced view of the world and still claim to be a functioning part of it quite escapes me.....As Trowelfodder might say Rant Over!!
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind all passion spent...
Rant not nearly over!

As a professional archaeologist who decries the un-easy relationship of Private Market Commerce and Archaeology, and as somebody with no particular reason to defend Mr Selkirk, i would like to say that i agree whole heartedly with above sentiments. This may well be construed as an attack on Mr S. xx(
Well, quite a rant from Mr Selkirk.
Two things not previously commented upon immediately struck me:

'Finally, the sheer weight of reporting now required is quite excessive. Small societies which in the past produced an annual report two pages long now find themselves having to produce a dozen pages'

The final report is surely THE most important part of any archaeological work. I've written hundreds of site reports, even the most negative watching brief rarely comes in at much under 12 pages!

'When professional archaeologists are called in, they tend immediately to put barricades round the site so no-one can see what is happening, and that is not the point of archaeology at all.'

If local societies don't put up the 'barricades' they will find that the HSE may start kicking up a fuss!

All in all, I thought Mr Selkirk displayed a distressing degree of ignorance, not just of commercial archaeology, but also of English Heritage, the county curatorial services and the requirements of the HSE.

I assume he doesn't run or manage fieldwork himself? Mind you, there may be one or two commercial concerns which have a similar outlook...
Steve H Wrote:'Finally, the sheer weight of reporting now required is quite excessive. Small societies which in the past produced an annual report two pages long now find themselves having to produce a dozen pages'

The final report is surely THE most important part of any archaeological work. I've written hundreds of site reports, even the most negative watching brief rarely comes in at much under 12 pages!
I'm pretty sure that was talking about the society's annual report (i.e. financial etc) rather than archaeological reports.

Was the 2010 date just an error on the website, or is it an old editorial?
@Steve H, I think the moan about the length of the report was about the annual financial report, showing the societies accounts.

This blog is a year old, which might account for why he still thinks that the National Trust, English Heritage and the Unive

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